Leo Cullen has apologised for comments made last week when he suggested that all of Glasgow Warriors' players were Rangers fans.
The Leinster head coach made the remark after his side's Guinness PRO14 semi-final win against Munster in the RDS and it struck as odd and out of character at the time from a man who is normally more measured in his media dealings.
It was a remark that was met with some displeasure in Scotland where the sometimes sectarian nature of the football divide between Rangers and Celtic can all too frequently cause emotions and actions to boil over.
Jim Craig, a member of the famous Lisbon Lions Celtic team that won the European Cup by beating Internazionale in the Portuguese capital in 1967, was among those to pull Cullen up for his words this week.
“After the game last week, our semi-final, I made a comment that seemed to attract plenty of attention,” said Cullen at the Friday afternoon press conference for tomorrow's PRO14 decider against the Warriors at Parkhead.
“Just so that we’re all aware, it was a throwaway remark,” he added. “It was made in jest and I didn’t mean to offend anyone. For any individuals that I did offend, I apologise to them.”
Cullen has recalled Jonathan Sexton, Rob Kearney and Scott Fardy to the XV from last week, the last of that trio due at least in part to the unavailability of Devin Toner who was ruled out through injury.
Kearney's future has been the subject of some debate this week as his IRFU central contract runs out after the World Cup and he has yet to sign another with the union or with anyone else.
IRFU performance director David Nucifora said earlier this week that the two parties were very close to a deal and Cullen was similarly positive about the chances of the 33-year hanging around for club and country post-Japan.
“We’d be very hopeful that Rob stays as well and, because it’s a little bit later, ideally you’d like to have these things done normally, but with the way some of the contracts roll with the World Cup it’s a little bit later. So that’s why it has probably taken a little bit longer,” said Cullen.”
“But we’re very keen for Rob to stay, we hope he does but I’m sure he has interest (from elsewhere), but I thought Rob was exceptional (against) Saracens (in Champions Cup final). He comes back in fresh this week so hopefully, it’s a good boost for our guys.”